Guatemala Opens Embassy in Jerusalem Amid Criticism From Palestinians, International Community

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales

Guatemala opened an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, two days after United States inaugurated its new site in the contested city in a move that infuriated Palestinians and drew worldwide condemnation.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the embassy's opening on Wednesday in an office complex in west Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was fitting since Guatemala also followed the U.S.to be the second country to recognize Israel 70 years ago.

"You were always among the first", he said.

Morales called it a "transcendental moment for future generations" who will "remember that friendly countries took courageous decisions in favour of Israel and we do this because you have a special place in our hearts".

Guatemala was one of only a few nations that backed Trump's decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and is only the second country to move its embassy to the holy city.

The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday triggered deadly clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in Gaza and the West Bank that left 61 dead and over 2,000 others wounded.

Meanwhile, Paraguay has also announced relocating its embassy to Jerusalem, whereas Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras are considering doing the same.

Netanyahu declared that the move was in line with Guatemala's close friendship with Israel.

The Israeli military, which has come under worldwide criticism for firing on unarmed protesters, said Hamas militants tried to carry out bombing and shooting attacks under the cover of the protests and released video of protesters ripping away parts of the barbed-wire border fence.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and consul general and several European countries summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their foreign ministries for questioning and called for an global investigation.

The US, however, blocked a statement drafted by Kuwait calling for an independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza and calling on countries not to station their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. It was considered as the bloodiest day of cross-border firing since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

It said explosive devices and firebombs were used, while Israeli soldiers were also shot at.

Netanyahu profusely praised Guatemala for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel has faced worldwide criticism over its use of live fire.

Guatemala was one of seven countries to proudly vote with the Trump administration and Israel when the issue of the Jerusalem embassy arose at the United Nations.

Jerusalem's status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. embassy relocation infuriated the Palestinians. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. These countries also demanded an global investigation. The United States opened its Jerusalem embassy in the southern Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood on Monday.

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